10 Ministry Tools for the Non-Musically Inclined Pastor.

YouNot all of us pastors have the luxury of having a full worship band, pianist and an ear for music. Let’s face it, some of us reading this article right now can’t carry a tune in a bucket…and that’s okay. We don’t all have to have the gift of music. Scripture even points out the various gifts that we are all given and appointed with (Eph 4:11, 1 Peter 4:10-11), and just as the focus on speaking in tongues can become an issue, so too then use of music. Don’t get me wrong, music in worship can be most beneficial to the body of Christ, but it should be viewed as a conduit to deeper worship, not the desired end result.

Today, let us focus on this element of worship with the non-musical pastors in mind. If you fit this mold, then take note. My wife is very, very talented in other areas of ministry, but she will openly admit that music is not one of those talents.

There are many, many pastors in small churches or corps that do not have a musical bone in their bodies, and that’s okay. I want to help you find some tools to use within worship that will assist you and your congregation within and even around the conduit of music on Sunday.

1) YouTube Videos/YouTube Video Downloaders.
If you are not musical at all, you might utilize a plethora of Christian worship music on YouTube. There are even Youtube downloaders that you can use to have the videos accessible in places of worship where WiFi and the internet are sketchy or nonexistent. Using a video on YouTube could include modern top 40 Christian songs, a movie clip, or numerous other topics other than just music.

Don’t neglect the power of videos and or worship songs in your Sunday services. Feel free to be creative and intentional in the planning of your service theme too. Caution: This will take time, so don’t just throw everything together on Saturday night and expect amazing results…intentional planning takes time and hours. We are all busy people, but not taking the time to find the appropriate videos and/or music, is noticeable in our services (I’ve been guilty of this too).

2) iSing Worship (app)
This is a great app that does cost a little bit, but is a tremendous tool if you have a portable device like an iPad or iPhone. The app is free, but the songs will you about $3 a piece, which is only a dollar more than what you would pay for songs you currently buy on Google Music store or the apple iTunes Store. When you buy these songs, you then have the ability to include all of the elements of the song (i.e lead vocals, guitar, drums etc.). So, for instance, if you wanted to lead the song you could turn the vocals down and sing with the music like it was Christian Karaoke hour. Or iSing worship could become your worship band in a box by simply hitting play. Be sure, however that you plan the songs you are going to sing ahead of time and have the words either printed or displayed on the screen for the congregation to sing along.

Just some of the songs I have purchased and used in my services.The nice thing about iSing Worship is that once you select the songs you want to present on Sunday, it comes up on the display in front of you with the Lyrics as you lead the song.I highly recommend this app if you are willing to invest a little bit of money for the songs.  It adds an element of intentionality into your worship, even if you’re not musically inclined.
3) Recruit & Delegate
One of the challenges for many pastors, regardless if they are musically inclined or not is the use of other people in worship services.   Do not be afraid to ask other people to help out, or lead elements of the service.   In fact, a shared worship experience with other people leads to a better all around worship service.  If you’re at all like me, perhaps you are a control freak and you want to ensure everything goes according to plan, perhaps we have to come to the conclusion that we must trust the Holy Spirit as well as other people.
When we share the worship experience with other people, we share ownership.  Be picky when you select, recruit and delegate people to these tasks, make sure you are selective and intentional.  Find people who have potential as future leaders or already established leaders.  It’s okay to fail or have rough worship experiences with these individuals, that’s a part of the learning & discipling challenge!
4) Utilize your Youth

The apostle Paul told Timothy not to allow others to look down on him because he was young (1 Timothy 4:12)…the same can be said about young people in our churches and in the worship setting.  Use your young people, don’t discount their willingness and abilities to lead.  Teach them, disciple them as the future leaders by investing in them now within your worship services.  Have them help by reading a prayer, or scripture verse, a skit, or even by leading a song.  Some of your young people might be more musically gifted than you are – so cultivate that gift and use it in your worship service!Also, don’t let older people in your congregation overly criticize your young people.  We do not want to discourage their growth as future leaders, we want to encourage them.  Unfortunately most churches have the old grouches who grumble at anything new – even young people.  Don’t tolerate that behavior from any member of your congregation.  We need to disciple our youth, and this is a great way to begin to do that!5) Set the Stage (don’t neglect this!)

Regardless if you are musically inclined or not, we can become more creative in our church decor.  Don’t neglect the aesthetics of your worship space!  Take into account the seasons, the topics you are preaching on and use your worship space to reach all of the senses of the worshipper.  Use smells (plug ins, or spices, candles – but don’t let it become over-powering.  Use sites – place artwork up, or banners, build sets out of styrofoam and paint it…there are many links of Pinterest and other websites to explore and tap into our creative sides.
Use worship songs at the beginning of the service through cd/mp3/computer…set the stage with song (even if you aren’t musical).
When we actually plan the scenes of worship within our worship spaces we introduce our congregations to a living and moving God.  The stages and worship places are concerts or performances, but there is something to be said about being intentional with the sights and sounds (and smells) or our spaces for the purpose of ushering our congregants into the very throne room of God.6) Worship Band in Hand (app) 80F2AEDA-13F8-4F91-9073-5EC1C971B0E4
This app also costs some money in terms of purchasing the songs that you want yo use, but it comes with a lot of features and abilities.  You get one free song included upon installation of the app, it gives you the opportunity to try in it out and see if you like it.7) Auto Pad(app) DB7C4580-E865-4E70-90EB-D6A043897404
This app will cost you $2.99, but there are many features that this ambient sound pad contains that could set your worship onto a new plain.  Perhaps you use this during your sermon and the use of tone and ambient sounds can deepen the worship experience.   Using such a tool might require you to include/recruit others to help you operate the app while you preach or read scripture.  Give this app a try and experiment with its use in your worship service!8) Lead a Messy Church instead!  messy church 2
Do you want to break up the monitany of the worship experience?  Do something different.  Some have begun to do dinner church, while others have started to incorporate Messy church into the worship experience.  Messy church can be a great way to reduce your music phobia by utilizing stations through this very practical, teachable methods.here is a link to a few that we have done over the years – https://pastorsponderings.org/category/messy-church/9) Conduct A Quaker Service7256EF73-FB9D-41F8-A2CB-50ABA8C4E724
A Quaker service generally is not focused on music, but instead the recitation of poetry, prayers, and the element of silence.   This type of service might be a stretch to many of your congregants, even more so than Messy Church because of the use of silence.  Despite the drawbacks, using this type of worship setting, but be just the thing your church or corps needs in order to have everyone dig a little more deeply into their hearts and minds.

Here is a link for more information on the Quaker service

10) Prayer Stations/Artistic Approach
20A21EF5-8630-4240-9045-86461F35EDE7Conduct a prayer service with stations.
If you want to get creative, you can go onto Pinterest and explore the many ideas expressed there when it comes to Prayer Stations.  This approach takes the focus off of the use of music and onto a hands-on prayer service.  You could quietly play worship music in the background through your sound system and encourage everyone to spend the next 45 minutes at the many prayer stations that you have intentionally set up in your sanctuary.  Here are some links to help guide you in this:
Prayer Loom
Thy Kingdom Come
Scrabble Pieces
More Pinterest Ideas

These are just 10 suggestions to help the non-musical and musical pastor a like, for the purpose of creating a deeper, more meaningful worship service.  These are not exclusively ‘it’ for worship ideas, but just a primer for more exploration and worship developement in your corps & churches.

Please tell us what you use in your churches that help to make your worship experiences more meaningful and helpful to you and your congregation?  Post your commends below, we want to hear from you.

Something more for all of us to Ponder today.
To God be the glory!

Dear Salvation Army, Where Are We Going?

“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” -Michelangelo

This is more of a collective pondering today. We need your comments, thoughts and opinions in order to carefully and thoughtful answer the above question: Where Are We Going?

What is our vision?

What should our vision be?

How do we make that vision a reality?

What are some of the obstacles in our way of fully realizing that reality?

Who will it take (e.g. soldiers, officers, volunteers, donors)?

How important is accountability in such a large movement/organization?

How can we become more accountable to Christ within this Army? Where does Holiness belong in such a conversation?

I have disclosed numerous questions to ponder today…are you willing to take a chance at answering any or all of these questions? The larger scope question: Where Are We Going? In other words, if you were to envision where the Army SHOULD BE in 20 years, what would it look like? What would you want to see different, the same, the growth?

-If we have no plan or vision, then we will flounder and waver.

We look forward to your responses!

Something more for the Army to ponder today!

Vision without execution is hallucination.” – Thomas Edison

*Disclaimer: the thoughts and opinions represented here do not necessarily reflect the thoughts and opinions of The Salvation Army and are that of the writer of this blog, reader discretion is advised.*

Perspectives: Featuring Lieutenant Blake Fewell

“Officer’s Covenant: ‘Called By God…'”  

The Officer’s Covenant begins with one statement that carries through the rest of the Covenant: “Called by God…”.  This is the foundation from which the rest of the Covenant is built upon.  It is a statement of affirmation that the officer has listened to and discerned that the Lord’s will for his or her life is for full-time service as a minister of the gospel within The Salvation Army.



The way in which God calls people to service can vary from person to person.  I will tell you of my experience, but I do not claim this to be the only way that God may call someone.

I knew from the time of my salvation that God had a purpose for my life – there was a reason why he saved me from certain death at my birth.  When I was somewhere around the age of 12, I began thinking that maybe God wanted me to be a Salvation Army officer.  I am sure I had thought about it prior to that age, but I cannot nail down a specific date in which I was “called”.  I also never had an “aha” experience – I never heard God’s voice audibly speaking or had some magical vision or anything like that.  I had grown up in The Salvation Army and was always open to the idea of officership.  So around the age of 12, I set my sights on becoming a Salvation Army officer.  Again, there was no specific time when this happened, it just happened.

One thing that played a huge role in discerning my calling was watching the examples of various officers, active and retired, within my corps.  I loved listening to their stories about the joys and challenges of officer ministry.  Through those examples, I was encouraged in my pursuit of officership.

Since I never had any sort of divine revelation regarding my calling, I ultimately stepped out in trust.  I knew that if it was truly God’s will that I would be a Salvation Army officer, then he would provide whatever was necessary for that to happen.  I knew he would open doors where I needed them in order to guide the way.  He certainly did!  He provided countless opportunities and opened numerous doors that solidified his calling on my life.  Looking back on those times, I can see God’s work through my life in making my calling sure.

Did I ever doubt my calling?  Of course!  I would even dare say that it can be healthy to have times of doubt because when God provides the answer to that doubt, it strengthens our sense of calling.  In the times that I doubted my calling, God provided people and environments in which I was encouraged.  Again, when I think back to those times of doubt, I see God orchestrating ways in which my calling would be strengthened.

I would like to share a few insights about calling in general and specifically for officership.  Some may agree and some may disagree with these statements, but I hope these can stimulate our thinking and understanding of calling.


When we talk about calling, we seem to always discuss the individual side of calling.  “Tell me about your calling.”  “When God called me…”  I think we, for the most part, understand that God calls people individually for certain things.  He may call one person to do one thing and another person to do another thing.  Our responsibility is to be responsive and obedient to our individual calling.

There is also a corporate aspect to calling, specifically for calling to ministry.  In the first three verses of Acts 13, we see this corporate element at work.  God had called Barnabas and Saul to go and proclaim the gospel.  The church at Antioch responded by praying for them, fasting, and sending them off.  This is the corporate response to calling to ministry.  The church body is responsible for recognizing God’s call on a person’s life, affirming that call as evidenced by the person’s fruit, and sending that person off with their prayers.

It is important that we do not neglect the corporate aspect of calling.  I know that God has called me to officership, but I need to know that others see evidence of that calling in my life.  This keeps our individual callings in check and accountable to the Church.


I think I have indicated this already through my calling experience.  Calling does not mean that a person has to audibly hear God speak to them or have some other sort of divine revelation from God.  This is why the term “calling” can be confusing to some.  We need to make sure that when we describe calling, we do not restrict it to a specific time or a specific experience.

As I said with my calling, I never had that one moment where I said, “Yes, I’ll be an officer.”  I also never had a defining point in which God spoke to me or revealed it to me.  It was a process of observation, reflection, and acceptance in my life which was not grounded in one moment.  I think it is dangerous for us to insist that God’s calling must take place in a “crisis” manner.

I don’t mean to say that God does not call people at a specific time such as at Youth Councils or during a Candidates’ Sunday.  I don’t mean to say that God does not work in a “crisis” manner to call people, but it is not something that happens to all.  We do not want to exclude or alienate those who have had aspirations toward officership but may not have had such a “crisis” moment.


God’s calling comes in a variety of forms.  Calling is not restricted to officership – people are called by God to all sorts of professions, careers, and ministries.  With that said, God’s calling may not always be specific.

I was speaking with a young lady in one of my classes at Olivet this spring.  She was studying children’s ministry and knew she wanted to be actively working in ministry with young people, but she did not know where.  She was aware of God’s calling on her to minister to children – that was specific – but she did not know in what manner, degree, or location God wanted her to serve.  I also know a number of people from my time at Moody who may have been studying pastoral ministry or theology or biblical studies and have been specifically called to full-time ministry, but the details of how that would happen had not been made clear to them.

I know that God has called me to specifically be an officer within The Salvation Army, but that much detail is not always the case for all.  God calls people, but the specifics of that calling may not always be evident.

I want to write for a moment about our recruitment of Salvation Army officers as it relates to this.  I appreciate what our divisional and territorial leaders do for recruiting and equipping candidates for Salvation Army ministry.  The process, though challenging, is much needed so that we invest in the right candidates and cadets for officership.  I do believe, however, that we have an untapped resource for officers.  As I said, there are a number of young people who know that they are called to full-time ministry but do not know where to turn.  The unfortunate result is that many do not end up in full-time ministry positions.  Could these be our future Salvation Army officers?

I think we can focus a lot of our attention on internal recruitment, and that is not wrong in any way, but there may be future officers out there who simply need to be introduced to The Salvation Army and to officership.  From my experience at Bible college, there are thousands of students in this nation who are zealous for ministry and the gospel who are searching for their ministry outlet.  These could be our next officers.

blakeThere is so much more that could be said about the topic of calling and I hope to write more on this subject.  Turning back to the Officer’s Covenant, it is important for every officer to understand that officership is not of our own self-will or desire, but because of a God-instilled, Holy Spirit-directed calling on our life.  The manner in which we are called may vary, but the God who calls remains the same.  He is still calling men and women to officership – we must continue to be responsive.  With the prophet Isaiah, we resound, “Here I am! Send me.”

**Check out further writings by Lieutenant Fewell via his blog site at: Blake Fewell**

Dear Salvation Army, Answering The Call

Here is the principle – adapt your measures to the necessity of the people to whom you minister. You are to take the Gospel to them in such modes and circumstances as will gain for it from them a hearing.” –Catherine Boothcatherine

How far do we go in answering the call for help?
Are we truly listening?
All around our communities, there are hurting people.
Regardless of their backgrounds or circumstances, our mission is to help, and in so doing, we can open the door to offering spiritual aide as well.  But how far will we go?  Do we still adapt our measures to the extreme of the need of people?

A Snoozing Army ?
snoozeAre we alert to the ever present need to adapt to our changing communities?
Are we awake?  Or are we happily slumbering in an Army of bygone eras and rusting instruments in a chapel only marginally attended?  This may sound harsh, but perhaps we have been caught snoozing.  In our attempts to play “Church” which we are not, or more than – we have forgotten this principle plainly outlined by our Co-founder Catherine Booth.  While we have been polishing our awards and photographs of yesteryear, we have lost sight of the present dangers ruling our streets and pulling the helpless into the very pit of hell, lined with addictions, abuse, pornography, apathy, hatred, human slavery, and all kinds of other horrors.  Is this you?  Is this me?  I pray it is not.  I pray if it is, we would wake up and recognize the reasons we may be dying are directly related to our missing vision and mission.  Our origin story.  Our principle for being an Army in the first place.  To go for souls and go for the worst.  To combat the forces of evil that still ravage our communities, and do so without fear of reprisals and attacks of the enemy.

I fear we have slipped because we have failed to adapt.  adapt
I fear we have stopped being revolutionary in our methods to reach the lost.
Perhaps we have grown too comfortable in our offices and in our perceived places of power and authority.  Perhaps we have grown lax and lost some of our vigilant passion.  If we are to continue winning souls for the kingdom, we won’t find them banging on our doors to be let into our Sunday services – No!  We must adopt other means to seek souls out.  William and Catherine Booth didn’t start the Christian mission in a pristine church ornately decorated with stained glass, NO!  They went to the Pub, they went where no other church would go.  Are we as bold as they were?  Can we, perhaps, pray for such a boldness in our Army today?  Oh Lord, grant us the courage to go where you send us, and the conviction to remain steadfast despite the intimidation of the evil one.  For I fear that currently the evil one is perfectly happy with our lack of zeal in the streets, as we usher ourselves away quietly in our corps halls to worship and nothing more.

No, a new revolution must be waged!  
soldierA new passion for souls must be prayed for, not just in our hearts but in every soldier’s heart.  This isn’t just an army that preserves a heritage of the yesteryear, this is an army that carves out its destiny in the present and future through faithfulness and reliance on the Holy Spirit!  We must recognize this need!  We must reorganize, realign, re-imagine and act upon this mission of ours!  We are not an army to sit on our backsides and do nothing!  No! We MUST be a forward moving army, who has accepted and adapted to this modern spiritual war we are in.  We cannot capitulate, grow soft and comfortable – to do so will bring about our fall, and someone else will take our place!  I say we still have a war to wage!  I say we support our Officers not just in prayer but action.  I say we support our Soldiers not just in flowery words on Sunday mornings behind the pulpit but with deep compassion, love, truth and by God’s authority.  When we are united as one Army, we are so much more effective than just solitary entities running around in the streets trying to do good.

Are we ready?
Let’s Go!
Let’s fight to the very end!
Let’s continue to wage this war – and through God’s power, we will prevail in this generation…and the next!!!

Questions to ponder: ponder
What can we do that is revolutionary to reach our community?
Are there “out of the box” methods we have yet to employ?
What is holding us back from employing them?
How much prayer to you devote to your mission and your community?
Are there burdens or unaddressed issues in your corps that need tending so that you can unite and move out into the streets?

I know it is easier said than done.
I know we all have so much to do.
I realize there are programs to “maintain”…but can we do ONE thing that impacts new lives for Christ?  Can we focus on individuals, not numbers?  Can we develop connections with people, not statistical figures?  Perhaps set a goal with your corps council or your local officers…or even just with yourself – to make one impactful relationship in the next three months.  Pray about who that will be.  Ask the Lord to lead you to that one person…and watch out!  When we are alert and aware of our surroundings, those people God places in our path will not be too hard to find.

Are you ready to answer that call?!

Something more for our Army to ponder today!
To God be the glory!

Dear Salvation Army, Convenience or War?

booth“We are not sent to minister to a congregation and be content if we keep things going. We are sent to make war…and to stop short of nothing but the subjugation of the world to the sway of the Lord Jesus” – William Booth

Today I wish to ponder upon our identity and that of our action as a Salvation Army.
I believe the chief dangers of our Army currently is comfort and prosperity.  I speak primarily to the Western world “Army”.  Not as an indictment, but rather as a conviction of mine.  We are comfortable. We have where places in the world does not have even a roof to worship under.  We can call it blessed, and it certainly is, but within that “blessing” there is the real danger of becoming lazy.

-Lazy with Jesus’ teachings.
-Lazy with the need to leave our buildings.
-Lazy with the necessity for Holiness.
-Lazy with the Officer or Local Officer in their preparation for Sermons and Teachings.

Comfort can produce these dangers if safe guards are not in place, and spiritual disciplines are absent.  (I am not calling anyone lazy in this pondering, merely warning all of us of its lure and harming  effect it has on our mission)

go onGeneral Booth’s quote here seems to indicate that it is not The Salvation Army’s mission to maintain .  Are we doing this right now?  Are we simply playing it safe and maintaining the status quo?  What of Spiritual and Corps Growth?  What we are we doing within the context of Suffering/Serving Humanity that leads to lives being transformed?  Our Army is NOT about becoming like another Church…or is it?  Is it an erroneous thought that we are Church or that our evangelistic approaches should mimic that of other churches?  What are the dangers of such an approach?  Do we get it wrong sometimes when it comes to this train of thought (Distancing ourselves from being just another “Church”)?

I know that the Booths truly believed that they could win the world for Jesus, and i’m not doubting that this is possible, BUT…was this quote simply used to rally the forces in some sort of pep talk/rally OR are we to wage spiritual warfare everywhere we look?

Some Truths: fight
We have become slightly (maybe more than slightly) comfortable in our cozy corps and structured programs.  We have sort of evolved, funding sources have more guidelines, we have more to lose and so we protect the ground we have already gained and risk much less often…tell me is this Booth’s vision of our Army?

I do not wish to sound like a militant Salvationist, but are we lacking something in this current approach?  I know that I’m not the only one asking this.  I know that there are leaders all around the world in our Army seeing this very same danger.  So…how do we fix it?  How do we go about turning the ship (sometimes Titanic-like behemoth) around?

I Believe… 
*I Believe we are not to be an Army of Convenience.
*I Believe we are not to be an Army of Comfort.
*I Believe that if we barricade the corps doors and insinuate ourselves with program and “play” church, and look like all the other churches – we will have lost our Blood and Fire Souls!
*I Believe this generation needs to step up our efforts in the fight against sin in our communities.
*I Believe a little civil disobedience in order for deaf ears to hear of the hope of Christ needs to be utilized once more.
*I Believe that we need to rely less on where our next funding source is coming from and more on the Great Provider to grant us these gifts.
*I Believe that Holiness in our Ranks means that our mission will not face extinction.
*I Believe that without prayer in the pews we will not have warriors for Christ in the streets.
* I Believe that without spiritual disciplines employed in our personal daily walks, we will be greatly weakened, Christ’s image not realized, and more susceptible to the lures of temptation.
* I Believe that our Army is in need of a revolution which can only begin on our knees in full submission.
*I Believe what make us an effective army is the Holy Spirit’s power, and the obedient-servant hearts of soldiers!

ArmyI do not belong to a convenience Army…do you?
May we continue to wage war in our communities on sin.
The darkness is very real in towns and cities.
Suffering because of sin still occurs…and we cannot, we will not turn a blind eye to those who are suffering!

Something more to ponder today.
To God be the glory!


Disclaimer:  The Opinions and thoughts of the writer do not necessarily reflect the opinions and thoughts of The Salvation Army.  

Dear Salvationists, The Mercy Seat

The hope of the Army is in the penitent form.  As soon as that goes out of use, we go out” (General Albert Orsborn)

We call it the Mercy Seat, others call it the Penitent Form, still others call it the Altar.
Why is it there?
What is it’s purpose?
Is it still valid and needed today?

Perhaps these are just a few questions that you’ve wondered about as you have participated in a Salvation Army service or meeting.   Some have, perhaps, been soldiers for years and never quite understood why we do what we do when it comes time for the “altar call” or “time of response”.

Is this practice outdated or is it still useful?
What is the biblical understanding of the “mercy seat”?

I believe Major ViJay Boda puts it rather succinctly; ”

“The International Spiritual Life Commission affirmed to the whole Army world that the mercy seat in Salvation Army meetings symbolises God’s unremitting call to his people to meet with him. It is not only a place for repentance and forgiveness, but also a place for communion and commitment. The report emphasises, ‘Here we may experience a deep awareness of God’s abundant grace and claim his boundless salvation.’

Encouraging the use of the mercy seat, the commission says, ‘The mercy seat may be used by any one, at any time, and particularly in Army meetings when, in response to the proclaimed word, all are invited to share loving and humble communion with the Lord.”

altar.jpgThis is a good explanation, and perhaps some of us are good at explaining this to new comers or new soldiers…but sometimes I think we need a refresher course.  We need to break old patterns and old molds in order to better understand what we are doing at the Mercy Seat or why we have these moments of commitment at all.

Biblically speaking, the Mercy Seat is first mentioned in connection with the Ark of the Covenant.  It is the “kapporet“, or the “atonement piece”.  Later it was the ornate golden cover to the ark with two cherub corners.  Imagine that, the “atonement piece” covers the opening to the very presence of God.

altar2Symbolically speaking, Jesus became our once for all- atonement piece – our mercy seat.  His blood makes us clean, and his provenient grace cancels our debts/sin.  When we kneel at this place of repentance that we call the Altar, or Penitent Form, or Mercy Seat, we are essentially placing our sins on Christ.  We lay them down, and in so doing, we are invited to pick up new clothes, a new life, this unmerited grace and forgiveness that Christ has prepared for us in His death and resurrection.

This Mercy Seat can be a sacred place.
We can kneel upon it in our corps buildings during Holiness meetings, we can find it at special events where seats have been turned around waiting for those willing to repent or seek reconciliation.  These sacred spaces are not necessarily holy in and of themselves.  They are just structures, constructed with human hands, but purposed for Divine encounters.

altar1BUT WAIT… 
The Mercy Seat is so much more than a specific place.
We, being the very essence and the body of Christ, now have access to this mercy seat anywhere at anytime and anyplace.  No, it’s not some new application found on our cellular devices or on our computers.  This Mercy Seat is never far from us, even when we find ourselves at home or bedridden with illness – it is there!   This Mercy Seat is found in our hearts.  When we receive Christ at a place of forgiveness and new life, such as the Altar, we also receive the blessing of His Holy Presence.  The Holy Spirit takes up residence within us.  Not in some sort of alien “body snatchers” way, but rather in a Creator meets and communes with Creation sort of way.  With His presence comes the mercy seat of our hearts, where we can come at any time before Him to confess, commune and grow in Christ’s image.

Samuel Logan Brengle once said, “I have carried a penitent form (mercy seat) around in my heart half a century or more. And if there is ever any need, I constantly fly to thee.
1 Mercy Seat – Many Uses (Not Just A Place For Sinners!!!)
Before I close this topic  today, (honestly, this is a primer for further discussion), I would be remiss not to mentioned  that the Mercy Seat is SO MUCH MORE THAN JUST A PLACE FOR SINNERS.  It takes real courage sometimes to come before the ecclesia (body of believers – A.K.A. The Church) and kneel at the Altar.   Sometimes many worry about what others might think or say (Shame on anyone who would say anything towards a brother or sister penitent before the Lord).  Sometimes this erroneous thought that keeps on circulating spoken or unspoken – is that once one has gone to the Altar they shouldn’t have to go back anymore.  Nothing could be further from the truth!!

If one of our more esteemed first theologians (Brengle) went to his Mercy Seat frequently, how much more do we still need it in our lives?

The Mercy Seat still beckons us to:
-Come and Reconnect with our Savior.
-Come and bring petitions and prayers as intercessors.
-Come and cast our  prayers of thanksgivings to Him.
-Come and seek forgiveness again.
-Come and find reconciliation and re-ignition.
-Come and pour out those deeply secret spaces of our hearts before the Holy Spirit who has been prodding us to let Him in.
-Come to surrender, or surrender again.
-Come and bring your brother or sister who needs encouragement and assurance.
-Come and bring your brother or sister who needs a friend.
-Come and bring your brother or sister who desires new life and is sick of sin.

So is the Mercy Seat pointless in our modern, sophisticated age?
Yes, it’s as pointless as the Son of God stepping down out of heaven and taking our sins upon himself…if that is truly pointless – then so are our lives.

No, in fact the Mercy Seat is so much more than just a kneeling place for sinners or saints…it is the exhalation of sin and in the very same moment, the inhalation of salvation, new life and holiness.  It ought to be perpetuated, preached on, and emphasized over and over again – with clarity, sincerity and truth.

For more reading on this topic check out another post: Is Your Mercy Seat Broken?

Something more for our Army world to ponder today.
To God be the glory!

Dear Salvation Army – Matters Of The Heart

Dear Salvation Army,
What we do day in and day out matters in our world.
Don’t ever forget why we do what we do.
If we ever lose sight of this relationship that we have with Christ, His Holy Presence with us, I fear we will lose our way completely!

This work is arduous.
This work is often without reward – we don’t seek rewards or earthly recognition…do we?  The mission we have been given is to provide hope, to show others the way to Christ, to instill the deep need for Holiness in our corps and in our lives.  We are, at times a gateway for those who have never set foot into a church, let alone those who have never left the door open to a Christ that cares.

The Salvation Army doesn’t exist to feed ourselves, it should never be an organization sold out to the almighty dollar and the stipulations assigned to those funds.  Sometimes when compromise happens, one wonders where our “walk by faith” went?  We aren’t in this mission to merely survive…we will thrive and be faithful in all seasons including those in which we struggle.

Programs & Lies We Buy…
Photo Dec 01, 12 46 55 PMIf all we do is programs and our hearts remain at home, we will have a soul-less building devoid of people seeking spiritual growth, holiness and this new creation we are to become.  Sometimes I fear we settle for what is instead of what could be…or what SHOULD be.  Soldiers, in essence we listen to the lies of the Great Deceiver when we buy into the acceptance of where we are right now and that we are incapable anymore of growing in the grace that Christ offers.  We convince ourselves that we aren’t good enough to receive entire sanctification, or we must become biblical scholars to get there.  We make every excuse in the book to NOT change that we run the risk of becoming stagnant and meaningless.  This is exactly where Satan wants us to remain.  If we remain here, we are no longer fit to be called an Army of Salvation, but instead the Army of Stagnation.    This is pretty harsh, because I believe we buy the lie that we cannot grow, or that we are limited in our growth.  I believe we stunt our growth and the workings of the Holy Spirit when we don’t allow Him access to EVERY corner of our hearts, minds and lives.

Discipleship of the Heart…
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” John 14:26

Photo Dec 01, 7 33 19 AMWe need to understand that what our corps do – matters.
What WE do as Soldiers in and out of the buildings we frequent MATTERS! This matter of the heart – means that we are living intentional lives both for the benefit of other believers and future seekers of Christ, as well as for our spiritual growth and development.

Dear Salvation Army Soldier, 
Be teach able.
Allow not only the Holy Spirit to instruct you in continual growth, but also other believers in the faith.  Do not allow your hearts to become hardened.  Do not become stiff necked people, who reflect more of the Pharisees of old than Christ himself.  When we lose sight of whose reflection we ought to emulate, we will have lost our reason for being an Army of Salvation.

Photo Nov 07, 7 30 14 PMBe Intentional
The words your choose, the friends you empower, the content (both visual and literary) you consume, the attitude you have around your community…IT ALL MATTERS.   If you cannot recognize the need for continual spiritual growth in your life, then beware.  We cannot become an army of arrogance and ignorance in regards to the matters of the heart.

Be Holy.
In word and deed – be holy.  Strive to be Christ-like.
Don’t take the short cuts, don’t sell out your faith or cheapen it in anyway.  Recognize that what you do on Monday through Saturday is just as important as what you do on Sunday in the Holiness meeting…it just might be more important.

heart.jpgThis message is for Adherents, Soldiers, Officers, Commissioners as well as the General.  It MUST be a matter of the heart.  We cannot only rely on “the law” to prop up what we do – we must first be HIS, and from that everything else must flow.  How is your heart?  Have you been guilty of listening to the lie?  Have you sold your need of Holiness short?  Is it incomplete?  Are you stagnating right now in your faith journey?  Perhaps this is my wake call…perhaps this is yours.  It is a matter of our hearts.  Forget all the programs that we throw around to “attract people”, forget all the “doing” that we are good at…it means absolutely nothing if our hearts are not completely His.

Something more for our Army world to ponder today.
To God be the glory.

*Disclaimer:  the thoughts and opinions express on Pastorsponderings are the writer’s own thoughts and opinions and are not necessarily the thoughts and opinions of The Salvation Army.*

Dear Salvation Army, Why I Don’t Agree With “Saved to Save”

Today we ponder The Salvation Army’s quote of “Saved to Save” and why I don’t necessarily agree with it.
Clarification: I am not discounting the fact that God can save us, in fact that is the crux of this statement in my opinion.
Dear Salvation Army, I don’t believe we are saved to save.
There I’ve said it.

I believe the Holy Spirit has saved us, I am not disagreeing with that by any means.
I know what it means to kneel at the altar of repentance and receive forgiveness and salvation.
I also believe in the second blessing – the Holy Spirit’s indwelling in our lives.
When He takes up residence in our lives we begin, with His direction and prodding, the intentional shift of reflecting more and more of Christ and less and less of our old lives (Holiness).

Thus when we are saved we do not go out and save others.
I believe that the saving is NOT the work that we have been called to do.
Instead, we are called to be holy.
In this response we begin to see others the way Christ sees them.
We begin to love the way Christ loves.
It isn’t perfect…and perhaps it may never be, but the initial transformation must begin internally before it can be transformative in the lives of others.

What I’m not saying
Photo Mar 10, 11 06 52 AMI am not saying we aren’t called to lead others to Christ.
I am also not saying that we don’t show care for others.

In fact we, through this internal transformation, begin to see the necessity to usher others to Christ.
We begin to understand how vital the new life is for others.

Uni1Here is where I draw the line.
Here is where I wage and struggle with the Salvation Army’s understanding of this quote.
Whose work is it to save?
Who does the prodding of the heart and the pleading of the soul?
Who takes aim at the conviction of sin and implores the search of forgiveness?
For me the answer has always been the Holy Spirit.

What is our responsibility then? 
What are we as Soldiers of the cross to do?  uniform2
We sing songs like “The world for God” and “Marching on“, and I wonder if we sometimes turn the warfare of sin and the spiritual realms into something narcissistic, and it then becomes all about us?   It then becomes all about what WE can do instead of what the Holy Spirit IS doing.

There is always the temptation to say look how wonderful The Salvation Army is, look at the amazing things that we have done and the amazing things that we are doing.  Slowly, the focus is taken off of the Holy Spirit and more on our shiny uniforms, our programs and our feats and accomplishments.   I am not saying that we always do this, but I am saying that it does become a temptation, that it does enter into our thoughts and motivations.

Our responsibility was never to “saved to save”.
Our responsibility was never to be the salvation of man.
We are merely the conduit of this amazing grace.
We are merely called to be faithful.
Our responsibility is first a call to faithfulness to The Holy Spirit.
We can do nothing without this first response.
We are powerless to save anyone let alone ourselves.
How can we then say that we are saved to save?
I am more inclined to say we are saved to serve.
We are saved first, and then most importantly, we serve and respond to the Holy Spirit.
Then, and only then, we are saved to serve suffering humanity.
This response can be simultaneous and should compel us to respond as Christ would to the suffering of others. We must respond to His call on our lives to serve Him as HE saves!
Without Him we cannot save.
Without Him we can only do good works and be another social service agency.
That isn’t all bad, good things are done here…BUT we are called to be more.
We are called to BE holy…and from this calling, we serve Him and in turn we serve others.

You may differ from my opinion…that’s fine.
We are called, and from this calling we go.
Regardless of if we are “Saved to Serve” or “Saved to Save”, may our immediate response to the Holy Spirit be one of obedience.

Something more for This Army of Salvation to ponder today.
To God be the glory!

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